Crafting musical instruments that are flawless to the eye and make beautiful music is an exacting process that combines art, science, old-world craftsmanship and attention to detail. Much of the finishing work for trumpets and trombones involves hand buffing using polishing belts and wheels. This is a dirty, dangerous job because it’s common for the belt or wheel to grab a part and suddenly fling it out of the operator’s hand. In a tight labor market, it’s also very difficult to find workers to perform hand polishing, and it will likely become even more difficult in the future.
When Conn-Selmer was looking for a solution to reduce hand finishing, a company that specializes in finishing and mass media recommended Mass Finishing’s equipment. Mass Finishing Inc. (MFI) developed a process using a corncob treated media with various oils and abrasives and their HZ-330 Centrifugal Barrel Finisher (CBF) to polish trumpets and trombones. The proprietary mixture developed exclusively for Conn-Selmer by MFI substantially reduced the need for hand finishing. MFI worked closely with Conn-Selmer, providing customer service and support in developing a faster polishing system, and then trained operators to ensure consistent results.
The old hand buffing method required an average of 34 minutes to hand buff each trumpet, while the new finishing system can buff 8 trumpets at a time in 20 minutes, followed by approximately 10 minutes of inspection and hand finishing. The MFI barrel buffing process is 8 times more efficient, provides sizable labor savings, is much safer, and also delivers environmental advantages. Operators no longer need personal protection equipment (PPE) as brass and bronze dust in the air has been eliminated. Previously, a bag house was required to collect the dust and a hazardous materials contractor was needed to periodically clean the dust from the bag house. Conn-Selmer officials were so impressed, the company is also purchasing an HZ-85 CBF from MFI to eliminate the rough buff process used to process brass instrument mouthpieces.
“The (CBF) process produces results that can achieve hundreds of thousands of dollars in realized savings each year, and also eliminate the need for buffing and specialty wax bars to buff our products. There is always skepticism when a new process is introduced and claims to obtain results just as good as the “time honored” manual processes, but I’m very impressed with this process and I’d definitely recommend it.”
-Perry Richards, Director of Engineering and Operational Excellence